I am making a big decision today. I have been wrestling with this decision for past 6 months or so. Today is the day I will make the decision final by notifying all the parties involved of what I believe we should do regarding a new ministry and the leadership for that ministry. This has been a long process. Sometimes I wonder if I took too long. I am sure there are plenty of people in my church wondering why it is taking so long. But as I look back on where we started to where we are, I am glad we took the time to make a good decision.
As average pastors, we make many decisions. Some are easy, some are hard. And for many of us, we don’t have a large staff to share that responsibility with. If you are in the process of planting or revitalizing a church, it can feel like all you do is make tough decisions. Decisions such vision, direction, programs, leadership, worship schedule, changes to the building and other important decisions are always in front of us. God has helped me to learn some principles that help me make good decisions. I thought I would share those with you.
1. Principle of the Path – This idea is from Andy Stanley’s book. It says that we are where we are because of the totality of decisions we make. We cannot get on I-75 going south from Tulsa and expect to end up in Kansas City. Same with our decisions. Our decisions in life, whether large or small, lead us where to where are and determine where we are going. Every turn on the road in your leadership is taking you some where. There are no small decisions. Choose the best path.
2. The Myth of Perfect – The perfect plan doesn’t exist. All decisions have both positive and negative consequences. I have seen that as we have made decisions to improve one aspect of ministry, that decision will often diminished another area. For example, we changed our Wednesday night schedule to an earlier time to accommodate families with children. It made Wednesdays easier for kids, but harder for adults coming from their jobs. Rarely is there a WIN-WIN in a decision. Something will suffer with every decision. Make sure you are prepared for it and the cost is worth the benefit.
3. Principle of Peace – I lead by peace. Period. I have learned that if I don’t have total peace, I wait until I do. I would rather take longer to decide something important than to make a bad decsion. But you cannot allow the immediate need to determine your decision. Proverbs 19:2 says, “Enthusiasm without knowledge is not good, haste makes mistakes” I have also heard the maxim: “Make big decisions slow and small decisions quickly.” This is hard to do because patience often feels like procrastination. Don’t get caught up in the tyranny of the present need. Wait for the peace. As we patiently wait, I am able sift out the potential pitfalls that cannot be seen in the immediate need. Only then can I make a decision with peace.
4. Principle of Partnership – No one makes decisions for themselves alone. My decisions effect others. Therefore, I need to include them in how I decide if it is the right decision. Proverbs 15:22 says “Without council, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” When I need to make a decision, I talk to as many people as I can. In my family, I don’t make a decision without my wife. She is my partner. If God is speaking to me, he will also speak to her. In my church, my board and staff are my partners. If God is speaking to me, he will also speak to them. In this recent decision, the first option I shared both groups was met with openness to the idea, but they almost universally seemed hesitant. I took from that response that I needed to wait and see what other options would arise. And sure enough, after waiting awhile (4 months in fact), another option arose. When I shared that option with both teams, there was almost an immediate recognition that it was the right plan.
Today is the day we move forward as a church. I can do so with confidence because I know this is the right decsion. I am glad I didn’t force this decision six months ago when I felt the pressure to do something. Today I am making a choice with peace in my heart, support from my partners, and I believe it take us on the path best for us. It is not a perfect decsion. There are always negative consequences. But because I let peace and patience prevail, I know with confidence that it is the right decision.
How do you make good decisions? What principles do you use? I’d love to hear from you.